Quit Staring At Your Muffin Tops

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? It’s New Year’s Eve, and I suspect, by the new muffin tops spilling over the edge of my yoga pants, I may have eaten too much again this year.

Shocking!

Last night, I made my yoga students hold Warrior II foreverrrrrrrr, while telling them to leave the self-loathing over holiday gluttony on the mat. “It’s a waste of our time, ladies! You’re strong and beautiful, and you’re here getting stronger and more beautiful. So good! Three more breaths.”

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

Warrior II. Photo Credit Tim Cigleske

A teacher of mine is fond of saying: You cannot be selfish and happy, and that’s why I think New Year’s resolutions, particularly those surrounding weight loss, slip off us like soap in the shower.

We want to get in shape, because we think it will make us happy, and to a degree it’s does, but I’ve been at my “goal weight” and seen all the muscles in my arms, and guess what? I just found something else that needed fixing. Relentless discontent dogs me when it’s all about me. In other words:

I OBSESS ABOUT MY MUFFIN TOPS WHEN I STARE AT MYSELF IN THE MIRROR.

So in 2014, I’m going to quit staring at myself and stare at somebody else instead.

Like the couple in church who, despite having at least three, sometimes five, kids, just swooped into CPS-land and got four more. It is a proven fact that helping them makes me happier than losing ten pounds.

Or perhaps I will stare at another family I know that’s a little short right now, and run to Sam’s Club for them. That plan bubbled up at Love Dinner Saturday night because there is a need, we know what it is and we can meet it – simple.

The Love Dinner gals have been cooking this in their own kitchens for months now. One of them used a Macy’s gift card she got for her birthday to buy new clothes for a Hispanic woman living with her three kids at the crisis center. Another helped an older woman clean up her child’s vomit in Taco Bell. Another gave a young mother pushing a stroller in the dark, a ride to the grocery store and back home.

See, the LD gals know that the Love of God must be attached to hands and feet. This country is drowning in theology while the world dies of hunger. How can that be when the Bible says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:26

Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

BTW – Muffin Tops Cannot Survive this Pose! Photo Credit: Flashflood

The good news about love and service is that it feels good. When somebody’s life is demonstrably better because you showed up, it’s exhilarating and holy because you sense there’s something larger at work. Though you can’t see it yet, you are building great amphitheaters and skyways and rose gardens in the eternal Kingdom of God.

And it’s easy. Look around.

Does some kid in your neighborhood need a trusted adult? Is there an elderly widow who needs a cup of tea? AIDS orphans surely need a sponsor, and Mercy Ships needs a lot more doctors, nurses and dollars for the new ship.

So go ahead lose the ten pounds here’s a tool I like, and come to yoga in Mineola; then unhand the muffin tops and go get happy helping someone else. Let me know how it goes.

Happy 2014!

On Love Dinner & Wolfpacks.

Love DinnerI host this little gathering at my house once a month, called Love Dinner. And while I’m a big fan of candlelight, girlfriends, red wine and chocolate, I really have no idea why I am doing it.

Except, I think God wants me to.

It’s like he’s teaching me something about intimacy and trust, building a cozy shelter out of women who also like Milano cookies, root beer floats and Love with a capital L. Ladies, we need this more than we care to admit.

Love Dinner is a haven for women, especially those with wide-eyed panic stares and glazy smiles, whose overwrought, type-A behavior says “I’m fine,” in the same way Sally Field said it in Steel Magnolias.

Uh, clearly not fine, but unless you’re from some warm-climate culture, you’re going to say “Ok good to see you, take care” and move on, thrilled to have dodged some colleague’s weepy elevator meltdown.

Not at Love Dinner. We go there – together – and we ask Jesus along, because a few months ago in Zambia, we realized women who get on their knees together to sort through a mess of broken glass are pretty good at cleaning it up.

That’s what happened in my snug, little living room last night. It was easy to see who was Sally Field, white-knuckling dinner, impatient for us to shut our eyes and pray so they could finally LET IT ALL OUT. My question is: Why wait?

hangover-alan-wolf-pack-speech-movie-poster-GLflm90036

Jesus & Alan in the same post? Sweet.

I’ve decided being a lone wolf is a spectacular waste of time. My wolfpack has grown by a dozen or so, and I realize how lucky am I to have a cadre of women who want to hang out at my house and do battle for me when I’m too far down to do it myself.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25

Another funny thing about Love Dinner is this:

The people I invite are rarely the ones who show. Last night two women I didn’t invite and one I’d never met before settled right in with everybody else. Perfect!

One woman showed up four hours late and didn’t leave until one in the morning. Another brought her new, deaf, rescue dog. One is so in love and hopelessly twitterpated she can’t speak without giggling. And the baby of our group is sprinting after Jesus in such exuberant and hilarious ways it’s easy to forget she’s only 19.

Last month’s assignment was based on Matthew 22:37-41 wherein Jesus said the two greatest commandments are Love God and Love others. I nearly peed my pants when Baby K told us how she interpreted that – paying for some grown man’s gas with the last $20 of her financial aid.

“I’m sure he thought I was hitting on him,” she said. “And I’m like no way honey, I don’t love you. I love Jesus.”Love Dinner

Team Dallas, who couldn’t come last night, shared this story via email.

Paula and I were driving to Burlington to look for purses when we passed a young lady pushing a stroller on a street without sidewalks. After I passed her I realize how easy it would be for someone to hit her because it was night time.   We circled back and pulled up to her and asked if she needed a ride. She was crying.  We stopped in the middle on the lane and got out and helped her into the car stroller and all – she had a baby – 4 months and a young child 14 months in the stroller.  She said that the boyfriend she was living with would not go get her some milk and food for the baby and the little boy and told her to get it herself, so she was walking to the store that was a good distance away.

We had the privilege of taking her to the store. She would not let us buy the food and milk but we held the babies while she shopped and we took them home. Before they got out we prayed with her and she cried and we believe that God did something special that night in all of us. We prayed for the boyfriend whose parents she said were big in the church.  God is going to do something good for that family.

Do you see? Do you get it? This is what Christians are supposed to be doing. “By their fruit you will recognize them,” Jesus said.

So it’s not entirely about us hanging out and having fun together, although that’s important. It’s about filling up on the love of God, so we can spill it out on other people, releasing, as the Apostle Paul said, the fragrance of God everywhere we go.

This month’s assignment is called Loving The Father. We’re using Psalm 145 as a springboard, reading it daily out loud, to remember just who we’re dealing with and what he promises to do.

But we’re still going to buy grocery gift cards for homeless people and gas up cars because that’s where some holy magic happens and we don’t want to miss it.

Want to join us? Comment below to join us online, where you can test out what we’re doing in your own community and report back.

How to Love People Better

I have a childhood friend who has adopted 9 of her 11 children, most of whom were damaged in utero by alcohol. Many of them require a breathtaking level of care and an environmental stability that’s hard to imagine in a home with 13 people sharing bathrooms.

What happens in her Minneapolis home is a miracle, a daily reminder of the faithfulness of the God she serves. I devour her blog Urban Servant trying to figure how someone with this much responsibility not only holds it together but has time write it all down. Recently, I took a good look at the tagline on her home page:

Filled, to be poured out again…

Screen shot 2013-10-06 at 7.21.17 PM

Yep they all do Tae Kwon Do too.

See, it’s not about her and she’ll tell you that. Nobody has this kind of stamina and personal courage. Rather, Dot understands she is a cup, designed to be filled with the love of God, then poured out on kids who, without she and her husband, would be crashing through the system. She doesn’t always know what to do but God does, and by trusting him over the years, her cup has grown in strength, character and volume.

This, my friends, is the purpose of Love Dinner. Dot’s life is an encouragement, a high-level example of what Jesus meant when he said:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

If you’re struggling with the love others part of the command, like that annoying woman at church or the tailgating jerk in traffic, you might be running on empty. If you don’t know how to fill up, pick up a bible and look up a few of these scriptures on how much God loves you, because when you finally get that, deep in your bones, it’s hard not to weep and tremble at his feet.

Fill up. Pour out. Repeat.

Most of the world struggles to live like this because they don’t know God is Love (I John 4:8). Imagine if they did. What would it look like? I think this video is a fun example, plus it has a ton of practical ideas for doing love well.

Love Dinner Assignment – Just for fun, try a few of these things in the video, or next time you’re in a drive thru, pay for the person behind you. Then tell us what happens.